“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
We are past the halfway mark in Lamentations. Jeremiah has been revived by the remembrance of God’s hesed. His situation has not changed, but his outlook has. God will show up eventually, because that is what he does. He cannot deny himself. He will not forsake his people.
Having seen the light of God’s mercy, Jeremiah turns his eye back to the desolate city. It is a pile of ashes where once a glorious fire was ablaze. Those who never gave a second thought to their next meal are stealing from the mouths of children. The wealthy are impoverished, the beautiful disfigured, and the compassionate show no mercy.
The final chapter is an extended plea that the Lord “remember.” It is not that God has forgotten or is unaware. Memory is not the issue, but rather presence and power. Jeremiah is asking the Lord to look and see their plight in hope that he will do something about it.
Recall Israel’s captivity in Egypt: “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel— and God knew” (Exodus 2:23-25). The text does not say what God knew. It simply shows us God burning in a bush, calling Moses to deliver his people. God knew what he had to do, because he remembered what he had promised to do.
What follows Jeremiah’s plea for the Lord to remember is a detailed list of what he hopes the Lord will not forget: “they are orphans; they are weary; they are bearing the punishment for their father’s sins; their women have been ravished; their princes crucified. All joy is gone. All dancing has turned into mourning. The rubble still smolders. The starving children still wail in the night” (Card). Lament is a sacred space to name our disappointments and sorrows. In fact, the most common form of lament in Scripture is poetry. Provocative imagery, vivid language, passionate expression, this is the language of love and lament, of prophet and priest.
Jeremiah was torn between his love for his own people and his commitment to his God. God’s own heart had been broken by his unfaithful people, and Jeremiah could do nothing but fill that abyss with his tears. His life points us to our ultimate hope, the Great prophet and High priest, Christ Jesus our Lord. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Jeremiah proclaimed the coming judgment of God. Jesus bore the weight of God’s judgment in our place. His blood speaks a better word” (Hebrews 12:24).
When Jesus stood in that awful gap between God and his people, the curtain of the temple was torn asunder. The presence and power of God was made available to all who would come in faith. Their mourning would be turned to laughing. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
What do you want the Lord to see in your life, in your town, and in our world?
What promises do you want to remind him of?
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.